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Lowry Park Zoo welcomes first baby of the year, it's a Tapir | News

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Lowry Park Zoo welcomes first baby of the year, it's a Tapir
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Lowry Park Zoo welcomes first baby of the year, it's a Tapir

TAMPA, Fla. (January 4, 2012) - The horns, hats and party favors from the Zoo's noisy "NOON" Year's Eve celebration were put away for another year, but in the quiet hours that followed that night, an endangered Malayan tapir gave birth to a female calf before sunrise on New Year's Day - the first Zoo baby of the New Year.

Upon arriving at the Zoo at 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve for their first nightly check of the expectant animal, zookeepers found all to be quiet in the tapir building. Then following the 2 a.m. check on New Year's Day, keepers were greeted by the tiny tapir who was already clean and dry (a sign that the birth had occurred with enough time for the mother to clean the newborn).

Photos: Lowry Park Zoo's new baby Tapir

Now three days old, the spotted newborn is alert and nursing routinely, both positive signs of health and strength. For her safety and bonding with mother "Umi," she will remain inside the tapir building under the watchful eye of animal care staff for the time being. The pair is not expected to be on exhibit for about a month.

"With less than a dozen viable breeding pairs of this endangered species in the managed population, each birth is extremely important in our efforts to sustain its viability," noted Dr. Larry Killmar, VP and director of collections.

Tapir calves are born covered in spots which fade to a solid black and white pattern within six months. Infants resemble a watermelon in size and shape. The newborn received her first check up by the Zoo's veterinarian this week where she was discovered to be a female weighing approximately 15 pounds, and is expected to gain about a pound a day.

The Malayan tapir is among the most primitive herbivores, dating back 20 million years. Closely related to the horse and rhinoceros more than any other species, the tapir has a unique, short trunk, formed by its upper lip and nose to help eat leaves, fruits, and aquatic vegetation. In the wild, tapirs are found in Burma and Thailand within dense forests, usually near water.

There are four species of tapir native to Southeast Asia and in Central and South America, all of which are classified as endangered due to ongoing decline. The Zoo's Malayan tapirs are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Tapir Species Survival Plan (SSP). 

The Asian Gardens habitat area, where the tapirs are housed, was made possible by funding from the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

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